The Miami Marlins may have a new name, a new uniform and a new look, but what’s going to happen when a ball is hit to center? The news broke this Monday (February 13th) that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes agreed to a four-year contract with the A’s thus turning down Miami’s offer. CBS Sports presumes that means Emilio Bonifacio will start in center field for the newly minted Miami Marlins. They cite new manager Ozzie Guillen’s interview with a Miami radio station, “Bonifacio would’ve have been my center fielder no matter if Cespedes was here.” Guillen continued, “If Cespedes (came) to the Marlins, he would have had to make the ball club.” Guillen is great for a sound bite. However, is Bonifacio an actual lock for the position?
How soon we forget Chris Coghlan? Two years ago, he was National League Rookie of the Year. He also was technically the Marlins’ everyday center fielder at the start of last season. However, an injury-plagued 2010 and inconsistent play in 2011 landed the 26-year-old in the Minor Leagues. One has to ask if Coghlan can find a way to regain his 2009 form (.321 average, 9 HR, 47 RBI), could he throw a wrench in Guillen’s plans for Bonifacio? He is young enough to still pull it together.
Let’s face it. Emilio Bonifacio had some pretty underwhelming career numbers until Jack McKeon took over the team last year. Once McKeon turned him loose, Bonifacio was a completely different player. In 89 games, he hit .310 and stole 36 bases. Didn’t hear about it? Why would you? There are like 8 people at a typical Marlins home game.
With Reyes joining the core and Guillen’s reputation for turning his speedsters loose, Bonifacio looks to continue on his breakneck pace. AccuScore is predicting 585 AB, 4 home runs, a .280 average, 44 RBIs and a whopping 42 stolen bases. Bonifacio could be one of the best-kept secrets in Baseball.
No matter what Guillen is saying now, he has to know there are two center fielders jockeying for this spot. Coghlan is definitely behind the eight ball but he’s still healthy enough to compete. My money though is on Bonifacio. He hasn’t anywhere near the injuries of Coghlan and has been the picture of consistency since mid-2011. The only strike against Bonifacio is that he has too many people waiting in the wings to take his spot. I still predict though that Bonifacio will be starting in center on Opening Day.
So what does this mean to your fantasy baseball team? If Bonifacio can make the roster, grab him. If he falls to the middle, you would be absolutely insane to not take him. He can play center, shortstop and 3rd base as well. He’s not going to be a big bopper, but he is going to hit for some average and will steal you some major bases. If Coghlan fades, which I predict he will, Bonifacio will be the biggest bargain of the season. Why? Because no one knows how well he plays…yet.